Starring: Jorma Tommila, Askel Hennie and Jack Doolan
Directed by: Jalmari Helander
Running Time: 91 minutes
Our Score: 3 out of 5 Stars
When we meet the rugged dirt-covered Aatami (Jorma Tommila), we don’t know anything about him, not even his name. In the opening, wordless minutes of “Sisu,” we learn that Aatami is a prospector in northern Finland, digging around a stream with his trusty dog and horse, as the waning days of WWII are heard and seen in the distance. Aatami strikes gold, digs it out and triumphantly cheers towards the Heavens. He goes about his merry way through the bitter remnants of the Finnish countryside. It’s only until Aatami crosses paths with Nazis that we learn who he is and why you should never cross him.
Giving more information about the plot of “Sisu” would ruin a film that’s equal parts grindhouse, “Mad Max” and “Rambo.” Aatami shows multiple times throughout why he’s a one-man killing machine that should be feared instead of hunted. It’s slightly comical that everyone knows who he is, even the Finnish prisoners that are being taken who-knows-where by the dimwitted Nazis know that it’s only a matter of time before their freed. At least the persistence to kill Aatami and take his gold are explained reasonably, before we see some unrealistic and graphic kill scenes.
Unfortunately for the film, the desolate landscape doesn’t offer enough exciting action pieces for Aatami and the Nazis to play hide and seek in. It does force the director to utilize several unique escape plans for Aatami while simultaneously finding more and more bizarre yet infinitely creative ways to slice, dice and blow up Hitler’s stooges. The leader of the Nazi platoon, an SS officer played by Askel Hennie, plays a great opposite to Aatmi, sometimes having to pick up the slack when the film needs an exposition dump.
For me, the benefit of watching “Sisu” was the crowd. Anytime a Nazi blew up, got knifed, got shot, got run over, got…well…viciously killed, the crowd erupted in laughter and applause. I’m not too sure how this movie would fare at home by myself. That’s not to say that Tommila and Hennie aren’t a great WWII version of “Tom and Jerry” or that the ultimate goal of this film is to be entertained at the expense of history’s greatest foe being massacred. If you’re going to see “Sisu,” see it with a big crowd because everyone loves watching Nazis get their comeuppance. Will we ever tire of seeing Nazis killed? Probably, but not in my lifetime. I’m grateful for that and grateful for films like “Sisu,” even if it doesn’t go as balls to the wall as it could have.